"Is someone bringing this woman a beer or what?"
The antsy customer was the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the woman in apparent need was the president of a brewery, Deb Carey, who knows a few things about delivering suds.
Carey, co-founder with her husband, Dan, of New Glarus Brewing, not only swapped her own beer for half a six-pack of the president's home brew during a meeting at the White House, she made some economic points on behalf of small businesses, sat across from Obama and got a kiss on the cheek from Vice President Joe Biden.
Carey was invited along with 15 other successful small business owners to meet with the White House Business Council. It was her fourth such meeting — "they have not all been happy meetings," she noted — but the first time Obama and Biden were present in the Roosevelt Room.
Though the topic was economic recovery and how to "get it moving faster," Carey specifically brought up health care costs and skilled labor education. She also said the president and vice president stayed for the whole meeting, talking with each person and soliciting ideas.
"It was my distinct privilege to be included in the conversation, and they were paying attention," Carey said Wednesday.
Carey, who was wearing a "Brewers For Obama" pin (a reference to the ale and porter beers brewed in the White House, and the political support that brought), brought along two champagne-sized bottles of New Glarus Brewery's new Serendipity apple-cherry-cranberry beer as a gift.
The president, who had requested during introductions that an aide bring her a taste of the White House brew, then amiably teased the crew that she was still waiting, gave Carey three 12-ounce bottles of White House Honey Ale, packed in a blue bag with the presidential seal. She said she'll share with her husband, keep one bottle unopened, and send Obama her critique.
Only water was served at the meeting, she added.
Carey said she joked with Biden, and when the topic of increasing exports came up, she told him: "Hey Joe, I don't even sell beer in Illinois. That's what I think about exports."
Afterward Biden approached her, "put his hands on each shoulder, gave me a kiss on the left cheek and said, 'We are from the same neighborhood, kid.'"
Carey was named first runner-up in the 2011 National Small Business Person of the Year contest sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration. She was named Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year in March. She stumped on behalf of the president's economic policies a year ago, promoting tax credits and other programs that have helped the brewery expand.
Carey and her brewmaster husband founded the brewery in 1993. It sells its beer only in Wisconsin.